The Composite Career

"The great source of pleasure is variety."
~Samuel Johnson

When people think about making a job choice or change, they often think just that: a "job" choice or change in the singular. And… that's fine. What they often don't think about is the possibility that it could be more than one job they are looking for. Enter, the "composite career." A composite career (also known as a "portfolio career") is simply a career made up of more than one job. Take me for example. I do career counseling, and I marry people, and I do some personal training with folks - a composite career.

Composite Careers are Increasingly Popular

The idea of a composite career really isn't anything new, but it is increasingly popular. Why the growth in popularity? Well, it has to do partly with the economy - the reduction in full-time jobs has seen many people taking a couple (or more) part-time jobs in order to piece a lifestyle-sustaining income together. But, I think, it also has to do with a slow but steady enlightenment in the general public to the possibilities inherent in a composite career.

Benefits of a Composite Career
Many of the clients who I work with haven't heard of the term "composite career", but once they do, their eyes light up. Why is that? Well, let's consider some of the potential benefits:

First, you get a chance to earn money doing a couple (and perhaps several!) different things. This is very appealing to the "focus-challenged" among us. "Variety is the spice of life!" And variety is what you get with a composite career. Many of the clients I work with like the idea of variety in a career. It certainly keeps things interesting, and for those who can't stand the idea of staying in one spot doing one thing all day long, this idea of a composite career is a godsend.

Next, you have more than one source of income. This provides some security in an often less than secure work world. If you have two or more part-time jobs and you lose one, no sweat! You still have at least one other income stream, and maybe you can increase your hours somewhat there to pick up the slack while you look for another part-time position. Compare this to the scenario where you lose your one full-time job, and have no additional sources of income. So, a composite career can provide an increased feeling of security. Very valuable in today's labor market!

In addition, a composite career lends itself nicely to self-employment for some of the reasons we described above. If you're self-employed with two or more income streams, you are really the master of your own fate. You really can't "lose your job" in the traditional sense. For sure, your income can take a dive in one of your ventures, but with another income source or sources, the possibility exists that with a bit more advertising or referrals, you can make up the lost income with the other source(s). So, you've got some security and, of course, you'll still have the pleasure of variety that a composite career affords you.

Experimenting with Your "Dream Career"
Finally, for those of you who have a dream, a composite career can allow you to experiment with that dream. Perhaps you have the "job" that provides the income and, on the side, you begin to experiment with your "dream career." If the "dream" begins to take off financially, then you may be able to begin to cut back slowly on your "job." And, at some point, perhaps the "dream career" begins to pull in enough income so that you can quit your "job" completely. Hence, the composite career can provide the vehicle by which you attain your true calling.

Downsides of the Composite Career
Of course, having a composite career has it's downside - health insurance for one. Yes, unfortunately a composite career made up of more than one part-time job may be impossible for some because they need the full-time position that will provide health-care coverage for themselves and perhaps their family. Still, that doesn't preclude the scenario in the paragraph above where you keep the full-time job while "dabbling" in your dream career. And, if the dream career is a lucrative one, perhaps the income may eventually be enough to buy health-care coverage.

Composite careers have other advantages beyond those I've mentioned. I encourage you to consider one if it fits with your lifestyle, and to think beyond the "one job" box!

"Variety is the soul of pleasure." ~Aphra Behn

Career & Academic Planning Services

Located in Exeter, NH.
Providing Career Counseling for Nashua, Concord, Portsmouth, Manchester, NH, Massachusetts & Maine